Alabama Academy of Honor


James Browning Allen

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1975.



James Browning Allen, Alabama's former junior United States Senator and a formidable and respected parliamentarian, was born in Gadsden in 1912. Educated in the Gadsden public schools and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1931, Senator Allen attended the law school here, but left without receiving a degree. He completed his legal education by serving as an apprentice in his father's law office and was admitted to the Alabama Bar in 1935. From 1935 to 1968 he practiced law, resigning to devote his full energies to his senatorial duties.

He entered the political area in 1938 when he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, where he served until 1942, when he resigned to enter the United States Naval Reserve as an ensign. He served in the Pacific theater, participating in the campaigns of Okinawa and Leyte Gulf, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

Discharged in 1946, he returned to political life. He was elected to the Alabama Senate soon after he left the navy and served there until 1950. In 1950, he was elected to his first four-year term as lieutenant-governor; in 1962, he was elected again and became the first Alabamian to hold the office twice.

Six years later, he was elected by a sizeable majority to succeed Senator Lister Hill. Polishing the knowledge of parliamentary procedure that he acquired by presiding over the Alabama Senator, he set about achieving the goal he frequently described as "seeking to put more Alabama beliefs into our nation's capital." A hard worker who routinely logged twelve-hour days, he spent most of his time on the Senate floor, often in the presiding officer's chair. During his first term, he twice received the Golden Gavel Award given by the Senate pages to the first Senator to preside for one hundred hours during a session; unquestionably, his long hours of presiding taught him the finer points of procedure and enabled him to become the acknowledged master of the filibuster and parliamentary maneuver.

Scrupulous about his integrity, he long made a habit of disclosing the details of his personal finances. His honesty, insistence on voting his conscience even at personal cost, and parliamentary expertise earned him the respect of colleagues and constituents alike. Even his political opponents praised his integrity, and the voters obviously agreed: in 1974, they sent him back to the Senate with a resounding ninety percent of the vote.

In addition to the praise he has earned for his legislative work, Senator Allen was honored by a number of civic groups. These have included the Southern Tuberculosis Conference, which gave him its Gold Medal Award; the Alabama Rural Electrification Association, which gave him its Eminent Service Award in 1974.

Senator Allen belonged to the bar association of Etowah County, the American Bar Association, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Church of Christ. He married the former Maryon Pittman Mullins and they had three children. Although the Allens spent much of their time in Washington, they maintained a home in Gadsden, and Senator Allen would return frequently to talk with his constituents and sound out their views. He is now deceased.